Rookies battle for ASP gong
COOLUM Beach's Julian Wilson must keep Brazilian young gun Alejo Muniz at bay in the season-ending event in Hawaii this week to claim rookie-of-the-year honours and cap a stunning debut season on the ASP World Tour.
The Billabong Pipe Masters, which gets under way in the early hours of tomorrow morning (AEST), represents the 11th stop on the tour and presents Wilson with a golden chance to be officially recognised as the sport's next big thing.
The 23-year-old burst on to the surfing scene this year, claiming second place at the Quiksilver Pro France and third place at the Hurley Pro at Trestles, California.
He is ranked eighth in the world and is eighth in the points tally for the world title, which has already been claimed for the 11th time by American Kelly Slater.
Muniz moved to 10th in the year's standings after claiming third place at the Quiksilver Pro New York and at the Rip Curl Search in San Francisco.
"It's funny, because we both ride for Nike and we're the only two rookies that have done the full year and it's come down to us and we're only two positions apart and it's coming into Pipe," Wilson told the Daily yesterday.
With 35,850 points, Wilson leads his 21-year-old opponent by 4000 points.
The two are good friends but fierce competitors.
"It's going to be fun. He's a really good kid. I've been travelling with him all year," Wilson said.
"I think having him there has pushed me to surf better and I've obviously pushed him, because we're pretty close and we've had some really good results.
"I really hope we get some good waves at Pipe, get a big swell and it comes down to that.
"It's cool that we have even made a race out of it.
"Only having two of us, it could have easily turned into a one-horse race."
Caloundra product Joel Parkinson, second in the 2002 and 2009 series, is in line for his third runner-up tag.
The Pipe Masters, to be held in memory of Andy Irons, is expected to have favourable weather conditions in the next couple of days.
It also represents the final stop on the three-leg Triple Crown of Surfing series, which is led by local teenager John John Florence.
ASP WORLD TITLE standings
Heading into the Billabong Pipe Masters
1. Kelly Slater (USA) 63,350 pts
2. Joel Parkinson (AUS) 48,600
3. Owen Wright (AUS) 47,900
4. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 43,700
5. Taj Burrow (AUS) 42,200
8. Julian Wilson (AUS) 35,850
10. Alejo Muniz (BAR) 31,850